It was all right there.
Open looks at goal. A strong opponent’s lineup thinned by international call-ups and injuries. Momentum from a three-match win streak.
But when the Sounders finally grabbed the moment, they were already down and time was running out. Los Angeles FC created defensive stops as impressive as its offensive scores to send visiting Seattle off with a 3-1 defeat Sunday at Banc of California Stadium.
The defeat snaps Seattle’s three-game win streak.
“It was a weird game,” said Sounders left back Brad Smith, who made his first start since 2019. “Normally, on a good day, we score off those chances and it’s game over. It was a strange one. I thought in the first half we played well besides (conceding a) goal. After that we were asleep a few times. It happens.”
The match was the fourth of the season between the sides, but the first in Los Angeles since the Sounders upset LAFC for the Western Conference championship in October 2019. Seattle featured a different lineup than that historic 3-1 playoff victory, but one that was still predicted to win easily.
MLS’s 2019 Golden Boot winner, LAFC forward Carlos Vela, missed his 10th match of the season due to a knee injury. And the league’s leading goal-scorer this season, Diego Rossi (Uruguay), was called up for international team duty along with LAFC teammates Brian Rodriguez (Uruguay), Diego Palacios (Ecuador), and midfielder Jose Cifuentes (Ecuador).
Then five minutes into the match against Seattle, LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye injured his right ankle and had to be carried off the field. His replacement, defender Andy Najar, was substituted out of the match in the 13th minute with an apparent hamstring injury. That put defender Mohamed El-Munir in the match, his seventh appearance of the season.
When the sides settled into play, it was LAFC (7-6-3) that appeared more determined to win despite Seattle out-shooting the home side 18-11.
LAFC scored the opening goal on a set piece in the 15th minute. Midfielder Eduard Atuesta pinpointed his free kick to the left corner of the 6-yard box for a racing Danny Musovski to score off a header. No Sounders player could get in position to challenge the angle of Musovski’s shot.
Midfielder Francisco Ginella had LAFC’s second goal in the 65th minute. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei was frozen in place as Ginella’s twisting, right-foot shot whipped past him to the back of the net.
Sounders co-captain Nico Lodeiro pulled the team to 2-1 after forcefully putting a free kick shot into the upper right corner of the net in the 77th minute.
“Nico’s goal was unbelievable,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media members. “You could kind of see the team kind of building some confidence. And then Jordan (Morris’) breakaway and some other half-chances, we just can’t find the 2-2.”
Instead, Musovski managed a brace in the 84th minute. Frei was again flat-footed as Musovski collected the keeper’s initial tip-save and swung the rebound to the left back post.
The Sounders couldn’t catch LAFC in a similar slumber for any of their 18 shots. Rave Green midfielder Cristian Roldan and right back Kelvin Leerdam had headers miss at goal. Teammate Will Bruin had a shot go high. And likely the most frustrating was a series of LAFC blocks in the 56th minute, including Yeimar Gomez Andrade’s attempt that was headed away at the goal line.
“We had some mistakes and we know now what we need to work on,” Sounders midfielder Jordy Delem said during a video conference call. “If we want to win this kind of game, we have to score on our chances. That will make all of the difference.”
The Sounders (9-4-3) remain without forward Raul Ruidiaz (Peru) and midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden) and center back Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) because of international call-ups.
Seattle will be at home against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday at CenturyLink Field. MLS postponed Colorado’s past two matches due to new confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the club.
Those matches, including a mid-week game against LAFC, were to be played at the Rapids’ Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. There’s no indication as of Sunday the league will take the same precautions and not permit the Rapids travel to play the Sounders.
“We obviously are aware of the situation,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll tackle that when we’re back in Seattle.”